This was not the type of adventure the cruise passengers were looking for,
A cruise ship operated by an "adventure" travel operator was stranded in the South Atlantic on April 9th. The cruise ship experienced what is being described as either an engine failure or "propulsion difficulties" which reduced its speed to a capacity less than 5 knots in calm weather.
The M/V Plancius, is operated by a Netherlands -based adventure cruise company, Oceanwide Expeditions, which advertises itself as the "World's Leading Polar Expedition Operator." The cruise ship departed from Ushusia in Southern Argentina and was sailing on a 32 day itinerary which involved visiting islands in the South Atlantic / Antarctica region and ending up in the Ascension Islands. You can read a nice article about this type of cruising here.
The cruise ship is now alongside the Kind Edward Point Research facility on the South Georgia island. It was carrying 73 passengers and 42 crew members, including the expedition team. The cruise line issued a press release, which is below, which states that the passengers and crew are uninjured and safe. There are no indications of the weather conditions which existed when the ship lost most of its power, other than the statement that the weather is unpredictable given the approaching winter period.
A number of cruise ships have recently experienced serious engine and propulsion issues. The Azamara Quest lost power in an engine room fire last month as it sailed from the Philippines. The Costa Allegra found itself adrift off the coast of South East Africa in February after an engine room fire. The Bahamas Celebration lost all power sailing to the Bahamas last October in a similar incident. The best known recent power failure occurred in November 2010 and involved the Carnival Splendor which lost all propulsion with 3,500 passengers aboard while off of Mexico. The U.S.had to send an aircraft carrier to the scene while the cruise ship was eventually towed to port in San Diego.
Power failures to small "adventure" cruise ships present particular dangers to the cruise passengers and crew. The waters in the South Atlantic are treacherous. The Clelia II (photo right) caught the world's attention in December 2010 which it lost most of its power after a wave smashed windows and disabled its communications system and impaired its propulsion while it was trying to return to Argentina from Antarctica. The video of the little expedition ship bouncing helplessly on high waves into howling winds is a must see. It made my list of the Top Five Worst Cruise Ship Disaster Videos.
The Clelia II had previously been disabled in December 2009 when it ran into rocks in Antarctica with 100 passengers aboard, and had to be taken out of service.
The most serious incident involved the Explorer expedition cruise ship which sank in 2007 after it scrapped its hull and sank in frigid water in Antarctica. Fortunately, the weather conditions were calm and all passengers and crew were rescued.
If you have photographs or video of the Plancius, please consider leaving a comment below.
Cruise Operator Press Statement:
"Reduced propulsion power of m/v Plancius interrupts Atlantic Odyssey voyage. All passengers and crew are safe and sound. The Atlantic Odyssey voyage onboard m/v Plancius is interrupted since 09 April 2012 due to the vessel experiencing an incapacitation caused by mechanical dysfunction of the main propulsion system causing a reduced propulsion power. The ship is sheltered in safe position resting alongside the jetty of King Edward Point Research Station in Grytviken/Cumberland East Bay/South Georgia (54°17′S, 36°30′W).
Passengers, crew and expedition staff are safe. There is no threat to life or the environment
The spirit on board is - given the circumstances - good and passengers indulge in local walks and excursion program organized by expedition staff.
Oceanwide Expeditions takes precautions in the sake of passenger safety. As a result of the propulsion failure the ship has only very limited sailing capabilities ( maximum 4-5 knots in calm conditions), which means the vessel will not be able maintain course in rough seas of the open ocean. The original ship ´s voyage was aimed at crossing the Atlantic (embarkation of passengers took place in Ushuaia on 29 March, disembarkation of passengers was planned at Praia/Cape Verdes on 05 May). The weather forecast is unpredictable due to approaching winter period. Oceanwide Expeditions decided to take precautions and cancel the crossing of the Atlantic based on mission to operate safe and environmentally responsible travel. It is planned that all 73 passengers, some crew members (from 35 nautical and hotel), 6 expedition staff and 1 medical doctor will be repatriated onboard chartered passenger vessel m/v Ushuaia which will sail to Grytviken, South Geogia from Mar del Plata, Argentina, departing on Friday 13 April at 12.00 hours, arriving in South Georgia on 18 April, approx 12.00 hours local time. It is expected that the vessel can depart from South Georgia the same day with all passengers, including expedition and hotel staff. The vessel is scheduled to arrive in Montevideo, Uruguay on 24 April for disembarkation and connecting travel arrangements .
Next-of-kin of passengers have been informed directly or via their booking agents by Oceanwide Expeditions. M/v Plancius will have to be towed with support of a tug boat from South Georgia if onboard repairs are not possible locally. IAATO ( International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators), Class (Lloyds register) , flag state (The Netherlands), South Georgia Government and National Authority in the Netherlands have received status reports respectively."